Hundreds of demonstrators march up Whitehall, in central London, as they protest against Israel’s military action in Gaza on July 19, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Europe’s moral failure Since July 8, when the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge to stop Hamas and other Islamist terrorists from attacking Israeli population centers, a wave of anti-Semitism has overtaken Europe.
In city after city, attempts to draw the line between criticism of Israeli policies and crude anti-Semitism have been utterly abandoned.
“Jews are pigs,” protesters in Berlin shouted.
In the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles – nicknamed “Little Jerusalem” for its large community of Sephardic Jews, dozens of youths, some of them masked, raided shops, wrecking a funeral home and destroying its front window as several protesters shouted: “F**** Israel!” Others raided a drugstore that caught fire. Young girls looted baby formula inside.
Speaking as he commemorated the anniversary of the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup – a mass arrest of Jews in Paris on July 16 and 17, 1942 – French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned of “a new form of anti-Semitism.”
Nathan Norman Gelbart, head of Germany’s Keren Hayesod (United Jewish Appeal), reported that the German- Jewish community is frightened “because there are things that have not occurred since 1933.”
Esther Voet, director of the Center of Information and Documentation on Israel in the Netherlands, said that “we are very aware that it’s not about if something will happen in our country, but when.”
Benjamin Albalas, president of the Jewish community of Greece, said delegitimization of the State of Israel was “a first step toward the intimidation of the Jews’ right to live in their own home countries.”
Gelbart, Voet and Albalas all spoke during an emergency meeting held this week in the Knesset’s Diaspora Affairs Committee chaired by MK Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid).
A similar refrain was sounded in Washington last week during an annual meeting of Democratic senators and US Jewish groups. “The recurring theme, brought up both by the 24 senators who attended and the Jewish leaders, was a measure of the anxiety aroused by recent reports of attacks on European Jews,” JTA’s Ron Kampeas noted.
As anti-Semitism spirals out of control in Europe – ostensibly over the IDF’s military operation in the Gaza Strip, there has been a surprising amount of support in the US. A CNN/ ORC International poll found that a majority of Americans – 57 percent – believe that Israel’s military actions are justified.
At least part of the difference between American and European reactions has to do with endemic anti-Semitism among native Europeans that remained latent in the aftermath of the Holocaust, but that has re-surfaced in the past few decades. This is most evident in the rise of far-right parties in Hungary and Greece and far-left parties in Germany, Britain and France.
Another big factor is jihadist immigrants.
One of the responses to European anti-Semitism has been the sharp rise in immigration to Israel, particularly from France’s Jewish community, the largest in Europe at about 500,000. In the first three months of the year, 1,407 Jews left France, four times more than in the same period last year.
In any case, European leaders have a moral obligation to fight anti-Semitism. Mass immigration cannot be the only answer.
Unfortunately, in a United Nations Human Rights Council vote last week, leaders of the EU failed their moral duty. The council’s member countries were asked to support a one-sided resolution condemning “in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations.”
Nothing was said of Hamas’s strategy of using Gaza’s civilians as human shields, placing its rocket launchers in the midst of civilian populations, firing at IDF troops from hospitals and schools and denying Gazans access to bomb shelters to maximize civilian deaths.
Instead of taking a decisive and principled stand against Hamas’s aggression and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, every EU country on the council chose to abstain.
The US was the only member state that voted against the resolution.
By abstaining, EU leaders remained silent in the face of the Human Rights Council drawing a moral equivalence between a terrorist organization motivated by a violent, reactionary interpretation of Islam and a liberal, democratic state. If European leaders are unable to make this distinction, why should we expect more of Europe’s masses?